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Filter by keyword: Representations of science and technology

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Mar 28, 2017 Commentary
Babelfish and the peculiar symbiosis of public intellectualism and academia

by Kylie Walker

Arthur Dent's reluctant hitchhike through the Milky Way would not have been possible without the babelfish, which was nourished by his brain waves and in return decoded foreign languages for him. In much the same way, public intellectuals serve as science and technology academia's babelfish for the non-STEM savvy. While STEM academics continue to push back the frontiers of knowledge, public intellectuals equip the community with the knowledge we need to make big decisions, both for our own individual lives and for our society.

Volume 16 • Issue 01 • 2017

Aug 17, 2016 Article
Tweeting disaster: an analysis of online discourse about nuclear power in the wake of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear accident

by Nan Li, Heather Akin, Leona Yi-Fan Su, Dominique Brossard, Michael A. Xenos and Dietram A. Scheufele

Of all the online information tools that the public relies on to collect information and share opinions about scientific and environmental issues, Twitter presents a unique venue to assess the spontaneous and genuine opinions of networked publics, including those about a focusing event like the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear accident following the 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami. Using computational linguistic algorithms, this study analyzes a census of English-language tweets about nuclear power before, during, and after the Fukushima nuclear accident. Results show that although discourse about the event may have faded rapidly from the news cycle on traditional media, it evoked concerns about reactor safety and the environmental implications of nuclear power, particularly among users in U.S. states that are geographically closer to the accident site. Also, while the sentiment of the tweets was primarily pessimistic about nuclear power weeks after the accident, overall sentiment became increasingly neutral and uncertain over time. This study reveals there is a group of concerned citizens and stakeholders who are using online tools like Twitter to communicate about global and local environmental and health risks related to nuclear power. The implications for risk communication and public engagement strategies are discussed.

Volume 15 • Issue 05 • 2016

Jun 07, 2016 Essay
The necessary "GMO" denialism and scientific consensus

by Giovanni Tagliabue

"Genetically Modified Organisms" are not a consistent category: it is impossible to discuss such a miscellaneous bunch of products, deriving from various biotech methods, as if they had a common denominator. Critics are too often pre-emptively suspicious of peculiar risks for health or the environment linked to this ill-assorted ensemble of microorganisms, plants or animals: yet, even before being unscientific, the expression "GMO(s)" has very poor semantic value. Similarly, claims that recombinant DNA technology is always safe are a misjudgement: many unsatisfactory "GMOs" have been discarded, as has happened also for innumerable agri-food outcomes, obtained via more or less traditional field and lab methods. The scientific consensus, i.e. the widespread accord among geneticists, biologists and agriculturalists, maintains that every biotech invention has to be examined case by case, evaluating the unique profile of each new organism ("GMO" or otherwise): to assess its safety, the technique(s) used to produce it are irrelevant. Therefore, in considering "green" biotechnologies, a triple mantra should be kept in mind: 1. product, not process; 2. singular, not plural; 3. a posteriori, not a priori. Both people's and law-makers' attitude to agricultural biotechnologies should be reoriented, and this is an interesting task for science communicators: they should explain how meaningless and misleading the "GMO" frame is, debunking a historical, ongoing socio-political blunder, clarifying to the public what most life scientists have been recommending for several decades.

Volume 15 • Issue 04 • 2016

Mar 17, 2016 Commentary
Science and South Park, Reddit and Facebook, Leonardo da Vinci and the Vitruvian Man, and modern fairy tales about emerging technologies: science communication and popular culture

by Joachim Allgaier

The prevalent lack of research on the interrelations between science, research and popular culture led to the organization of the first International Conference on Science and Research in Popular Culture #POPSCI2015, which took place at Alpen-Adria-Universität in Klagenfurt, Austria, from 17--18 September 2015. The aim of the conference was to bring together not only science communication researchers with an interest in popular culture, but also other scholars, scientists and researchers, artists, media professionals and members from the general public. In this issue of JCOM we present four invited commentaries which are all based on presentations at the conference.

Volume 15 • Issue 02 • 2016

Mar 04, 2016 Article
Media portrayal of non-invasive prenatal testing: a missing ethical dimension

by Kalina Kamenova, Vardit Ravitsky, Spencer McMullin and Timothy Caulfield

Non-invasive prenatal testing (NIPT) is an emerging technology for detecting chromosomal disorders in the fetus and mass media may have an impact on shaping the public understanding of its promise and challenges. We conducted a content analysis of 173 news reports to examine how NIPT was portrayed in English-language media sources between January 1 and December 31, 2013. Our analysis has shown that media emphasized the benefits and readiness of the technology, while overlooking uncertainty associated with its clinical use. Ethical concerns were rarely addressed in the news stories, which points to an important dimension missing in the media discourse.

Volume 15 • Issue 02 • 2016

Feb 16, 2016 Article
The extent of engagement, the means of invention: measuring debate about mirror neurons in the humanities and social sciences

by David Gruber

Mirror neurons (MN) — or neurons said to be able to "mirror" the sensed environment — have been widely popularized and referenced across many academic fields. Yet, MNs have also been the subject of considerable debate in the neurosciences. Using a criterion based sampling method and a citation analysis, this paper examines the extent of engagement with the neuroscience literature about MNs, looking specifically at the frequency of "MN debate sources" within articles published in the JSTOR and Communication and Mass Media (CMMC) databases. After reporting the results, the paper reviews characteristic examples in context and, ultimately, shows that MN debates remain largely absent from peer-reviewed articles published in JSTOR and CMMC. However, the paper suggests that this happens for good reason and that MNs retain the potential for inventive animations even though debates have gone largely unrecognized.

Volume 15 • Issue 02 • 2016

Nov 24, 2015 Book Review
A handy guide to science-communication theory and practice

by Achintya Rao

The ever-changing nature of academic science communication discourse can make it challenging for those not intimately associated with the field ― scientists and science-communication practitioners or new-comers to the field such as graduate students ― to keep up with the research. This collection of articles provides a comprehensive overview of the subject and serves as a thorough reference book for students and practitioners of science communication.

Volume 14 • Issue 04 • 2015

Sep 29, 2015 Editorial
A question of (audience) reach

by Emma Weitkamp

Taking the International Science in Popular Culture conference as a starting point, this editorial considers audiences for cultural products, considering the size of audiences (from blockbuster films, to intimate science slams), their pre-existing (or lack of pre-existing) interest in the subject and what this might offer the field of science communication.

Volume 14 • Issue 03 • 2015

Jul 24, 2015 Essay
“Queue up, you stupid!”: communicating about technology problems. An exploratory study of warning messages posted on machines in public places

by Beatrice Arbulla and Massimiano Bucchi

Communication about technology has long been neglected within the field of science and technology communication. This visual exploratory study focuses on how users can communicate with and about technology in public places through warning signs posted on technological devices.
Three broad categories of messages have been identified: bad design, malfunctioning and disciplining users. By analyzing examples within each category, we suggest that studying these communicative situations can be a key to understanding how users are engaged in continuous, elaborate and sometimes even conflicting framing of technological devices (e.g. with regard to their purpose, appropriate uses, shifting boundaries between functioning/malfunctioning); how such framing, in turn, can be used to readjust/realign social behavior and organizational routines.

Volume 14 • Issue 03 • 2015

Jun 11, 2015 Article
DNA portraits: celebrations of the technoself

by Meaghan Brierley

The representation of self and the nature of our identities often converge through technological forms. This study investigates the promotional techniques of seven companies selling DNA portraits, the objective being to uncover how these images derived from laboratory processes are viewed as valid depictions of the self and scientific knowledge. DNA portraits are revealed as the intertwining of technology and identity through celebrations of the technoself.

Volume 14 • Issue 02 • 2015